Accessibility Matters

I take my abilities for granted.

I do.

Since I do not need much on the way of assistive technology to get on the Internet, I often forget about those who do not have the luxury to do things like pay their nearly-overdue Target bill online or watch the viral YouTube video of the little girl telling her dad to “Worry about yourself”. (If you have not seen it, take the 47 seconds and watch the cuteness. That dad is going to be in so much trouble for posting this when she turns 16, by the way.)

Now, while that while the video is adorable, it is also pretty non-complaint by today’s accessibility standards. There is no full transcript attached.  No functional closed captioning.  No alt text that I can find. But it went wildly viral and has over 8 million views. How many of those hits could have been from people with disabilities? How many more views would it have received if it were more accessible?

I was finally able to find a transcript of the video on another site and added to it a bit  for clarity.

Transcript worry about yourself

As a teacher for students with significant multiple disabilities, I know it is nearly impossible for most of my students to independently watch the clip you just accessed in mere seconds. They would not be able to locate it, play it, share it or “like” it without my hands-on assistance.

My students are on the extreme end of the disabilities spectrum. But, web access for anyone with a disability can quickly develop into a time-consuming and expensive process, even for those with the mildest of impairments. The web was not created with universal access in mind.  It is time to change that.

OK, web accessibility is fine, but why should we care?
  • Access to the web can improve people’s lives, providing new opportunities and services available only on the web
  • Accessibility leads to active participation in the world around us
  • Users are given more independence and opportunities to make significant contributions
  • It makes good business sense. More online users = more consumers
  • Accessible website benefit everyone, not just those with a disability.
  • It is the law.

Video: Web Accessibility Matters: Why we should care

Universal web accessibility should not be a privilege for those without disabilities. Web access should not be based on your ability to navigate a mouse or log in with a keyboard. Everyone with the desire to access the web should be able to find information, participate in social media or order a dog umbrella from Groupon for $9.99.  Real thing, I swear.

It’s the 21st Century.

The Age of Technology.

We cannot allow anyone to be left behind due to a disability, when we have the tools to prevent it.

What types of tools am I talking about?

Here are just a few examples:

For users with visual impairments

  • Screen readers
  • Enlarged print options
  • Alt text on images

For users with hearing impairments:

  • Closed Captioning
  • Written transcripts for videos

For users with physical impairments:

  • Voice recognition software (text-to-speech)
  • Assistive technology devices

For users with cognitive or multiple impairments

  • Alternative and augmentative communication devices (AAC)
  • Word prediction software
How can we promote an inclusive web environment?
  1. Follow the law
  1. Do some research
  • Make your own blogs more accessible
  • Check out if your favorite website measure up to the required standards by using free accessibility checkers such as http://www.508checker.com/ change name
  • Everyone has the opportunity to make a difference.

Check out links to some of the resourced, software, devices and topics discussed in this blog in the Interesting Links section of this blog

Using blogs in my classroom

Why Blog?

Well, I am a Special Education teacher for students with significant multiple disabilities, ages 18-21.

And the first thing you really need to know is that creating engaging, age-appropriate and functional lessons for my students involves adaptation.

Lots and lots of adaptation.

No textbook or off-the-shelf curriculum works in a classroom like mine. Creativity and flexibility are requirements, not suggestions.

What do I do to ensure that I have a constant flow of fresh ideas to keep both teacher and students motivated, especially after teaching for over 18 years?

Research.

Lots and lots of research.

That’s where blogging can come into play.

Hopefully, diving into the world of blogging will help me to discover new ideas, network with others who are seeking similar resources and maybe allow me to share some of my own trials and tribulations.  I have to admit, the thought of collaborating with others while being able to develop my own ideas more fully is quite exciting.

How do I blog?

Excellent question.

However, after doing a little reading, it seems that writing a decent blog is going to take more than a laptop and an interesting topic.

My usual writing style tends to lean towards more traditional methods:

  • Proper grammar and punctuation
  • Full sentences
  • Complete paragraphs
  • Introduction, body, conclusion

Unfortunately, this style does not an engaging blog make.

So, in order to hold reader attention for more than 30 seconds and make the experience somewhat enjoyable as well as informative, I am going to try a different approach to writing for the web. For starters:

  • Use lists and bullet points (check)
  • Write in short, concise plain ole English
  • Keep paragraphs short
  • Use meaningful, working hyperlinks
  • Choose topics that will motivate, engage and challenge both reader and writer

Can I handle the audience response?

Now, I have not always been the most eager participant when it comes to other people reading and reacting to my writing. I am also not a fan of criticizing others. But, criticism is part of the learning process.  As Winston Churchill said ‘criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary”. He was a smart man, so I’ll give it a try.

What do I blog about?

I have found myself drawn to the idea of figuring out how to incorporate Gaming into my classroom curriculum. Anything is possible. I just have to find out how.

Wii U, Xbox 360, online role play games, computer games

All of these are virtually inaccessible to students with multiple disabilities without intensive supports as well as another person. Independently playing Mario Cart is just not an option for my students at this point.

Besides, who wants to play a video game with your teacher? I can’t even make it past the first few levels on Pac-man before getting eaten.

The blogs listed below seem to be a good place for me to start my exploration and learn how to make the world of gaming accessible to my students.

http://atclassroom.blogspot.com

http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com

http://teachinglearnerswithmultipleneeds.blogspot.com